FOUR BITS: Patriots, WWE, Fallon, Tebow

1 » New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose team now has six former Florida Gators on its roster after signing running back Jeff Demps last week, explained Thursday why he has picked up so many players from the team over the years.

Via the Boston Herald.

“First of all, obviously, Florida has a lot of good football players. It’s a great football state. The University of Florida has great athletes and great players at their school, as do a lot of the other Florida schools. I had a good relationship with Coach [Urban] Meyer, as I do with Coach [Will] Muschamp, so maybe we had a little more insight or opportunity to evaluate or whatever. And we felt like those particular players that we drafted there fit our system and what we were doing. Now, not everybody worked out. Some worked out better than others. But that particular class — the [Jermaine] Cunningham, [Brandon] Spikes, [Tim] Tebow, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Percy] Harvin the year before that, [David] Nelson, the receiver [Riley] Cooper — those guys in those couple years there. For whatever reason, [Meyer] asked me to speak at a clinic. Charlie [Weis] was there last year.

“So I just had a little more opportunity to interact with those players in that school, and they were available at the particular times that we were drafting and so forth. Some of it was coincidence. Some of it was maybe a little more homework in a player like Aaron Hernandez, that talent-wise obviously should have been drafted a little higher than what he was, but we were comfortable with Aaron and taking him the time we did. That’s worked out pretty well for us, so sometimes that little bit extra getting to know the player, the person and so forth can come into play. You never know in the draft process. You just never know how it’s going to go.

“Certainly, coincidence is a part of it. Demps, we didn’t really — the guy was running track, so the way it turned out this year, a lot of that was coincidence. It wasn’t that big of a plan, but we’re happy we have the opportunity to work with Jeff and see how it goes.”

2 » On the latest edition of the WWE’s YouTube program Outside the Ring, former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard (known by his wrestling name of Titus O’Neil, one half of The Prime Time Players) takes tag team partner Darren Young on a tour of UF. The duo check out some major sites on campus, visit the athletic facilities, meet with Muschamp and Billy Donovan and do some Gator Chomps along the way.

3 » Model-turned-television host Tyra Banks was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday and participated in a skit called Brainstorm in which one person (Banks) gives an answer and another (Fallon) provides the humorous question afterward. The first two answer-question segments on the skit had to do with former Gators, namely Tebow and Olympian Ryan Lochte.

4 » Speaking of Tebow, he was a guest on the WFAN radio show co-hosted by former New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason on Thursday but did not get the verbal beat down in person that Esiason has previously provided him with over the airwaves. Esiason previously said that, if he were a member of the Jets front office, he would cut Tebow because he does not benefit the team in any way. On Thursday, however, he was mostly complimentary of Tebow while lobbing him some softball questions that the player, of course, knocked out of the park.

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Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 2

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the second week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 2

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Gators RB Jeff Demps set to sign with Patriots

Former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps is set to sign with the New England Patriots on Friday, ending his three-day run as an NFL undrafted free agent.

Demps, who decided on Jan. 12 to give up football in order to concentrate on his career as a sprinter, filed paperwork this week to become a free agent and was able to sign with any team he wished after not being selected in the 2012 NFL Draft back in April.

Though a dozen teams were seriously interested in Demps’s services, he and agent Daniel Rose narrowed down the player’s list to a handful of teams on Wednesday. Demps visited New England on Thursday and flew back to Orlando, FL on Friday to officially sign his contract.

Demps was technically considered an undrafted free agent under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement so the parameters of his rookie contract will be limited. He can sign for up to three years though the monetary terms of his deal were not necessarily as important finding the overall best fit, his agent told OGGOA late Wednesday.

“Every team has a different idea of how to use him and basically every team has given us an idea of what they want to do with him,” he explained. “We’re going to look at what teams have, what they want to do with him and take all of that into consideration. We’ve really done our homework.

“Just because a team offers him the most money does not mean they will be the team that gets him. Obviously money is great – and we’ll definitely get a nice deal – but it’s not like a team can come in, offer ‘X’ and all of a sudden they’re the right fit.”

Demps reportedly has been planning to make this move after failing to initially qualify for the 2012 London Olympics in July. He wound up being selected as an injury replacement and won a silver medal as part of the first round team for the United States in the Men’s 4×100 Meter Relay, delaying his football plans by a few weeks.

Rose also told OGGOA on Wednesday that Demps will join his new team as soon as possible as is very much behind the eight ball at this point in time. Training camp began two weeks ago and playbooks were handed out months ago.

Demps will be the sixth former Gators player on the Patriots’ current roster, joining linebacker Brandon Spikes, tight end Aaron Hernandez, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, defensive tackle Gerard Warren and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney.

Tampa Bay and the New York Jets were also in serious contention for his services.

Demps’s decision was first reported by FOX 13 out of Tampa, FL and confirmed to OGGOA shortly thereafter by his agent.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 1

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the first week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 1

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TWO BITS: Peterson re-signed, Cunningham

1 » Former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson re-signed with the Atlanta Falcons, continuing his now-14-year NFL career with the team he has played for since 2009. Close with Atlanta head coach Mike Smith, Peterson was brought over to the Falcons when Smith was hired away from the Jacksonville Jaguars (where Peterson played from 2003-08). After amassing 109 tackles (82 solo) with three turnovers and a sack as a starter in 2009, Peterson’s production has trailed off over the last two seasons as he has moved into a reserve role. He had just 24 tackles (18 solo) in 2011. He was re-signed for depth and flexibility purposes as he can play either inside or outside and is also a strong veteran presence in the locker room.

2 » New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had a disappointing season in 2011, spending most weekends on the inactive list and officially being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury on Dec. 10. When he did see the field, he mostly played on special teams after registering 35 tackles and a sack in 15 games as a rookie. Head coach Bill Belichick said he was pleased with how hard Cunningham had worked and noted that he had been having a “great offseason” on June 12, but a projection by ESPN Boston just 12 days later said the player only had a 35 percent chance of making the 53-man roster. That has apparently not stopped Cunningham from working his butt off in the gym and taking some fans along for the ride, as noted by Reddit user “dafrizz888,” who recently posted his account of Cunningham selflessly taking him through a tough ab workout a few days ago.

I called over to him and told him thanks again and that I wasn’t expecting to get to work out with an NFL player when I walked into the gym. He responded “hey, we’re all just doing our thing in there man.”

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SIX BITS: Haden, Cunningham, Rosario, Horford, Finney-Smith, Larson, Pigott, Bullard

1 » The NFL’s Around the Legaue blog highlighted cornerback Joe Haden as the most likely player from the Cleveland Browns “set for a breakout campaign in 2012.” Despite mentioning that he is “already one of the ten best cornerbacks in football,” a proclamation that would not be doubted by anyone who actually watched Haden play throughout the 2011 season, Gregg Rosenthal notes that Haden is not getting his due because after picking off six passes as a rookie he did not have a single interception in his sophomore campaign. However, he has been fantastic at limiting the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver and is “just hitting his stride” two years removed from playing as a junior for the Florida Gators and going No. 7 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Though Haden can lock down receivers, his reading comprehension (when it comes to the instructions on bottles of bubble bath) probably needs some improvement.

2 » Even though head coach Bill Belichick said New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had a “great offseason” and looked like a chance man at the start of mandatory minicamp, ESPN Boston only gives him a 35 percent chance of making the 53-man roster. “Last season, the Patriots kept Cunningham on the roster but he rarely saw the field, not having a special teams role in what turned out to be an injury-shortened season for the former second-round pick,” writes Mike Rodak. “Cunningham missed time in minicamp with another injury, an issue to monitor heading into training camp. If he cannot secure a role on defense during the preseason, he will face an uphill battle to make the roster.”

Read four more BITS in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Haden, Cunningham, Rosario, Horford, Finney-Smith, Larson, Pigott, Bullard

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FOUR BITS: Siler, Starks, Cunningham, Boynton

1 » Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Brandon Siler participated in a team practice for the first time since tearing his Achilles during the last play of a practice last August and missing the entire 2011 season. According to the team website, Siler only worked during individual drills but said it was good to be back in a helmet for the first time in nine months. “It was a lot of fun and it was football again,” he said. “All the [rehab] stuff that you do is meant to get you back playing football. When you get out there and put your helmet on – and I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve had my helmet on – it feels really good.” He continued, “I’ve wanted to light somebody up since I went down.” Siler did not get that chance on Tuesday as it was a non-contact, non-padded practice but will have that opportunity soon enough.

2 » For the second time in as many offseasons the Pittsburgh Steelers have begun organized team activities and minicamp without offensive tackle Max Starks. Also for the second time in as many offseasons, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has begun minicamp wearing Starks’s No. 78 practice jersey instead of his own No. 7. Roethlisberger entered the NFL along with Starks in the 2004 draft and the two have been extremely close friends ever since. Starks was unsigned heading into the 2011 season due to a neck injury he suffered late in 2010; however, after injuries plagued nearly the entire offensive line he was brought back and started almost immediately for the remaining half of the season. Last year Starks tore his ACL in the last game of the season – a playoff loss to Denver; he remains at least two months away from returning to action but is not under contract. Some have deemed it unlikely that he return to the Steelers, which is what was said last offseason as well, but Roethlisberger will undoubtedly pine for him to come back and protect him even if it is in a reserve role. (h/t Justin C.)

3 » New England Patriots outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham barely played in 2011…and it had nothing to do with his health. A notable absence from the field for the vast majority of the season (ESPNBoston.com notes that he only played 3.6 percent of the snaps in 2011 compared to 50.9 percent as a rookie in 2010), Cunningham reportedly had problems adjusting to the team’s switch to a 4-3 defense (he was a defensive end in college but was moved to linebacker upon being drafted) and may have been hurt a bit towards the end of the season though that was not the reason he missed so much time up front. According to head coach Bill Belichick, things have turned around for Cunningham and his playing time should be on the rise if he stays on the right track. “Jermaine’s had a great offseason,” Belichick said on Tuesday, noting that includes “physical improvement,” “overall mental grasp of what we’re doing,” and improvements to his “reactions and technique.” He continued, “He’s really worked hard. He looks good.” As for how much playing time he could see? “It will be up to him, and how he performs, relative to the other players at his position.”

4 » Florida Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton has needed to learn how to be a true point guard for at least two years now. If he has a future in the NBA, he is going to have to learn how to handle the ball and create both for himself and his teammates rather than just spotting up on the three-point line and taking shots. However, due to the presence of Erving Walker and the decision-making of head coach Billy Donovan, Boynton had been relegated to a shooting guard role even though giving him time at point had been a topic of discussion and consideration over the last two seasons. This time it appears that Donovan is ready to make sure Boynton gets that opportunity. “The three years he’s been here, he’s played some point,” Donovan told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “I think we’re going to need him to play some point. I think Scottie [Wilbekin] is the next logical guy in line. We signed Braxton Ogbueze who is a freshman. Kenny is a senior, so I don’t think there’s any question that Kenny is going to have to play some extra point because I think that’s best for our team.”

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Patriots set to bring back WR Jabar Gaffney

Less than 48 hours after being released by the Washington Redskins following the most productive season of his career, former Florida Gators wide receiver Jabar Gaffney has agreed to a two-year deal to return to the New England Patriots, according to NFL Network‘s Jason LaCanfora.

Gaffney, who spent three years with New England from 2006-08, never caught more than 38 passes or amassed more than 468 yards in a single season as a member of the Patriots. He did, however, catch five touchdowns in 2007 when the team advanced to but eventually lost Super Bowl XLII.

The last two years have been the most productive of Gaffney’s career. He had 65 receptions for 875 yards and two touchdowns with Denver in 2010 and eclipsed all of those numbers by registering career- and team-highs in receptions (68), targets (115), yards (947) and touchdowns (5) for Washington.

Selected with the No. 33 overall pick in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Gaffney spent the first four years of his career with Houston (2002-05) before moving on to New England, Denver (2009-10) and finally Washington.

He came under fire in early April for a epic rant emanating from his Twitter account that he later claimed he did not participate in. It is unknown if that incident contributed to his release from the Redskins though the team beefed up its receiving corps in the offseason and claimed Gaffney’s 2012 salary to be cost prohibitive.

Gaffney will return to the Patriots as the fifth former Gators player on the team’s roster. In addition to tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham, New England also plans to re-sign defensive tackle Gerard Warren for the 2012 season.

Photo Credit: Keith Nordstrom/New England Patriots

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